Swallow and The Great Indian Kitchen

It’s no secret that we live in a patriarchal world. We are at the dawn of new cultural reform, we are now truly understanding individual choices and freedom after years of shout-outs and books. But, any progress is progress. And to mark this progress, I bring out two cinematic parallels, Swallow (2020) and The great Indian kitchen (2021).

On the surface level, they might appear as two different films. But the thing that I clubbed them together is because in-depth they are the same movie! No, I’m not accusing of plagiarism, but I’m just pointing out the similarities in the theme. And this thematic similarities doesn’t occur from copying each other, but they exist around the world. 

The common theme in both the films is the identity crisis of a woman who is deemed to be a housewife for the rest of her life. And this happens everywhere in the world. The term housewife is synonymous to housemaid, the only difference is the wife is unpaid and should provide more services than a maid.

The theme

It is no exaggeration when I say women feel choked when this happens. Why would they as individuals should let another individual overshadow their identity? Now, the husbands don’t do that voluntarily in many cases, but it is indeed happening! In the name of culture and traditions we have long been shadowing a woman’s identity.

Both Swallow and The great Indian kitchen deal with this identity crisis of a housewife in their own different ways, deconstructing norms of their own regions. While Swallow is more focused on maternity, abortion, identity, freedom; The great Indian kitchen also touches religious and other cultural sentiments.

While Swallow is cleverly crafted and dealt with metaphors and surreal/psychological elements, TGK is straightforward and loud. TGK doesn’t hesitate from being passed away as over-spoken or being too predictable. TGK only cares about conveying the message and hence it is a mission accomplished. Right from the very first frame, the message and themes are clearly visible and understood in TGK.

The films as whole

While it is an artistic choice on how to make a film, it would have been better if TGK was not predictable. But at the same time, I’m hit with the dilemma that what if that is what they wanted to create? What if Jeo Baby, the maker, intended to bore me with predictability, because that is the entire point of the film. 

The film is nothing but an orthodox family and its housewife’s daily chores. Of course it’s predictable and repetitive. If this predictability was an artistic choice, it was a good thing to do so, because the message about the boredom and jail-ish feel of a housewife life is super conveyed!

But if it was a coincidence, then it was a lucky one. I wasn’t in awe looking at TGK as a film. But was in awe of the guts of the maker and the actor’s flawless acting. But if you ask if I would suggest TGK to others? Definitely I would! I urge all women and especially Indians to watch TGK!

Swallow keeps you hooked on with its interesting plot and character development. And it doesn’t feel like the plot is leading the character towards the shift. But it happens with TGK. Somewhere in the middle I felt like the character development was a bit shallow. It left a lot of doubts about the protagonist. The plot led the character shift in TGK, not how it should have happened. 

 We need more TGKs!

If only there were more details on the protagonist, it would have led the character development go smooth and doesn’t feel forced and projected. But Jeo Baby’s target was arranged marriage, regional cultural norms of marriage and post-married life of a housewife, so he might just have thought the details to be unnecessary. But the details would only have given a sense of completeness in the end.

India needs more movies like TGK. It is only through movies can we really make a cultural reform now. It’s time we understood why arranged marriages won’t work and only cause pain. It is already late to realise that housewives are nothing but housemaids with benefits.

Paava Kadhaigal, an apt title for such a wonderful anthology. This anthology speaks about four different stories with one common emotion, the honour killings. Directed by Sudha Kongara, Gautham Menon, Vetrimaaran and Vignesh Shivan, one story each. This is an anthology that portrays humans’ cruelty to sustain the honour in society.
The series begins with a beautiful graphic story that briefs all the tales in a nutshell played with a soulful BGM.

The concept-

As the series runs around the concept of honour killings, each story tells a different tale of why and how honour killings happen. Though centuries have passed, specific ideas still aren’t passe like “honour killings”. It is a beautiful concept to talk about as people should progress as the world is progressing.

The narration-

Every story has been narrated with a subtility that one can’t ignore the reality behind such stories. But one story that didn’t strike the heartstrings was the story directed by Vignesh Shivan. It stands last when compared with other stories of Paava Kadhaigal.

All angles study-

While the stories got us goosebumps with the hits and punches of emotions, some memorable scenes need light.
In the first story, Kalidas Jayaram plays Sattharu who just wooed us with his performance. The dialogue, “People either got irritated if I go close or came close to me with lust, no one ever hugged me with love!” brought a massive thought into how trans people are treated in society. Kalidas just lived through every tear he shed for the role. The song, “Thangame Thangame” still echoes in my ears.

In the second story, Jyothi, played by Anjali, expresses a deep emotion when she cries before her sister’s dead body.

In the third story, the chemistry between Mathi and Satya played by Simran, and Gautam Menon perfectly worked. When they are happy to when they are sad, the shift of emotions and expressions portrayed a perfect couple.

In the fourth story, Sumathi, played by Sai Pallavi, performed exceptionally in the climax scene. The conversation between Sumathi and Janakiram played by Prakash Raj is heartbreaking.

There are a few parts that are questionable in the series. Every swear word used in Paava Kadhaigal is women-centric. Where such liberal stories are spoken, these words shouldn’t hinder the audiences’ ears. We understand when they are used in anger, but story directed by Vignesh Shivan made a whole scene with swear words which had no purpose. The climax is an epic fail as there wasn’t a need to show that Jothi acted as a lesbian while she isn’t. It could have been better if the story had ended as if Jothi is lesbian.

That being said, there is too much to be told and consumed in this series. One cannot go without tears rolling in the eyes after watching Paava Kadhaigal. The foolishness of humans to have a hold of pride and honour in the name of caste, religion, status, societal standards should be stopped, and for what, Paava Kadhaigal is the answer!

Depth, well, it is one of the words that is analogous to many other things. While all the other secondary meanings of the word are related, the primary meaning would be ‘the distance between the top and bottom surfaces’. Even when it comes to a movie, the depth becomes a lot of things too. For suppose, the depth of a film can indicate the story going to deeper levels or the subject of the movie being deep. But we are particularly talking about the depth of field!

But technically, or to say, visually, depth or precisely depth of field is something that deals with focus. Depth of field is the field of vision that is in focus in a particular shot. Different camera lenses allow a certain depth of field. The aperture of a camera lens decides the amount of light that the sensor captures. Hard to understand, right? Let us break it down!

How does a camera function?

A camera is something that captures light through sensors. When you click the capture button, the light reflecting from the subject falls on the sensor. The shutter closes, and the captured light develops an image. Cameras are something that can control time with light. You can capture a moment of running time, and you can freeze that particular moment and hang it in your homes.

Aperture

Aperture is the hole of the lens. The light that passes from the subject is passed through the aperture of lenses before hitting the sensor. You can adjust the size of the aperture, and it affects the photo differently. When the aperture (opening) of the camera is wide open, it lets in all the light coming from outside. When more light falls on the sensor, only the subject appears clearly, and the rest of the background becomes blurred.

Because of the vast light that is going in through large aperture, this blurring of the background happens. And the blur occurs because the background is not in the depth of field. Depth of field is the area of focus in an image or a video. By making the aperture wide open and letting in more light, you decrease the area of focus, and only the subject of the image appears clearly.

depth of field and aperture

Similarly, if you decrease the size of the aperture, the light hitting the sensor is reduced. By each point of decrease in the aperture, the area of focus begins to increase. And if you tighten the aperture to the largest and closest, you can observe that now even the background is clear and not blurry. This blurring and focusing of subject and background happen because of the light going in and hitting the sensor.

F – stop

Something much more critical and confusing here is that the values of changing the aperture are referred to as ‘f-stops’. If you change the f-stops, the aperture either increases or decreases as per your requirement. The f-stops are fractions and are measured as f/1.8, f/2.8 and may have greater f-stops till f/22 or even higher. The common mistake one can commit while talking or understanding f-stops are about how they impact aperture.

It is clear to use that if aperture (hole) is wider then it lets more light in and the depth of field (area of focus) decreases. And if the aperture is close and tight having a smallest possible opening, it only lets little light and the depth of field increases. The f-stops with smaller numbers indicate wider aperture and the ones with bigger numbers indicate tighter aperture.

f stops and depth of field

It is that, greater the number of f-stop, lesser the opening of the aperture. And lesser the number of f-stop, greater the opening of the aperture. So, if you want to take a picture focusing only the subject and blurring out the background, you should choose lesser f-stop number on camera as it means that you are widening your aperture and letting more light. Thus, decreasing the area of focus, i.e., depth of field!

depth of field cheat

Wrapping up!

We have discussed how the depth of field is created, shifted and used to take pictures or videos. In the following week, let’s get into the practical use and ways of depicting the depth of field. We shall also see different types of uses of the depth of field to tell stories visually.

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